He got out
by Čolić Haris (Colic Haris)
He was shocked from what he saw. The scene before him was horrible. There was so much blood everywhere, he could barley count the bodies. The stench of death gripped his nostrils with such power, he was forced to throw up. It took him awhile to realize what happened and he panicked like never before. He knew what he had to do, but the intercom was on the other side of the common room. In order to get there and report this to the bridge, he had to go through the blood and over the bodies. When he singed up for this mission in Whirlpool Galaxy, 30 milion light years away from Milky Way, he had no idea what the mission was really about. If he knew, he wouldn’t be standing in the pool of blood, among the bodies of his fellow crew members.
His spaceship, named JNX1130, was tasked with cargo transport, from an outpost in Whirlpool Galaxy, back to the Station 37. It was supposed to be a pretty standard mission, very well compensated and good for future references. His job was to help the crew load the cargo, secure it inside the storage area and to make sure it doesn’t get damaged during transport. He only found out what the cargo really was, when they arrived at the outpost.
He managed to get it together and to walk through all that blood and over a few bodies to the other side of the room. When he finally got to the intercom, he pressed the green button and static noise erupted through the air.
‘This is Murllow speaking. The creature got out! I repeat, the creature got out!’
We drew lots: Me, Curly, Blondie, and Bangs, confident Curly would pick the short straw cause Curly suffers from bad luck. Guess my usual guardian angel decided to swap sides, chose Curly instead.
Pin drop silence.
The gang faces sketched with relief and a dash of utter horror.
“Don’t sweat it guys,” I said, giving them my trademark lopsided grin. “Travel broadens the mind, don’t it?”
Pin drop answers.
I snuggled inside the module specially made to measure, gave an exaggerated wave, before pressing the big red button. Up, up and away, my space craft and I went, kicking space dust in the eyes of all the galaxies we zoomed past.
I arrived, in some deserted field somewhere on your planet. With preparations made, I set off to not sure where. I assumed what I read about humans being the most intelligent of all species would be true. And yet, at every twist and bump you proved otherwise. You’ve got a strange way of doing things that’s for sure. The longer I’m marooned here, the less I understand you.
You’re desperate to connect with each other, but in the same breath you have to separate things – people, sexes, animals, food. I wonder does it make it you feel any safer? I’m not convinced.
One night I came back to find Black in my room.
“Hey sugar,” she said, “you gotta cut all this altruism out. These folks don’t get it. They’re passed redemption.” She sighed. “I should know, I’ve spent infinity offering solace and solutions, whatever I can, but all I get is a sackful of rejection. Do yourself a favour Red, stick to looking after numero uno.”
Then she held me close and we slipped in between the real and the fantasy.
No. 7 (from ‘Hypnotic Labyrinth’)
by Andriana Minou
We were drinking Turkish coffee next to the open window. In colourful little cups. Green for me, red for you. You took a sip and said this reminded you of the desert. I couldn’t get my head around this. How could Turkish coffee or open windows or colourful little cups remind you of the desert? I should have asked you perhaps, how could I remind you of the desert? I’m fair and blue-eyed and loquacious and my hands are cold and you just kissed me on the couch. But I didn’t. The afternoon sun was creeping in through the window. And you kept being the most handsome naked man I had ever seen lying on a couch, sipping Turkish coffee without sugar in a little red cup and reminiscing about the desert. So I started pretending to be a desert too. I closed my eyes and let all the tears I had been saving for the evening flow in my little green cup, all in one go. I spat out all your kisses on the floor and all their S’s climbed on your hairy tummy like scorpion curves. I snapped my fingers seven times and turned into a pile of sand. A pile of sand!, you exclaimed. Just what I needed for my empty hourglass!
by Stephanie Ellis
“How long?” asked Jacob Golding.
The room of students was almost silent, only a low tinny murmur could be heard as sound leached from their headphones.
“Two days, sir,” said the technician.
“And they’ve not looked up from their screens?”
“Not once, sir. Sat there good as gold. Obedient little sods. They’ve been sharing all the sites we’ve asked, liked everything we directed them to, typed what we wanted.”
“And others have read those posts? Acted on them?”
Another technician came over. “A thousand hits, sir and spreading. The replication rate is phenomenal. And getting them to go home and wait for instructions, inspired … saves a lot of tracking down. So far, so …” Here he waved his hand out in the direction of the room indicating more of the same.
Jacob Golding nodded with satisfaction.
“And the promotion?” asked the technician.
“Keep it running. Free phone or tablet to all schoolchildren, all students.”
Golding turned to the window. The nation’s youth were biddable, his. The hivemind was spreading his message and now he held the next generation in his thrall, they would become the workers in his hive. Controlled, incorruptible.
“Jack,” said a programmer at Golding Development. “You know this message will only affect English speaking students, how …”
“Use Google Translate,” said Jack irritably. He was tired. A shortcut wouldn’t hurt.
Obediently, the programmer sent his code through the translator for all known language subsets, then pressed RUN. Nuances of dialect, of variation were ignored.
The results took a few days to materialise—and then mind-fogged children started talking gibberish.
Speaking garbage, said Golding, fuming as order descended into chaos.
“GIGO,” said the programmer. “The golden law of programming. Garbage in, Garbage out.”
Golding was back to square one but he had been so close.
A change of address
by Mark Sadler
The house was half a millennium old. It was a four bedroom property, dating to the early 20th century, with pink walls and a neat front garden that had been preserved under stasis fields. Opposite and on either side, there stood similar homes. The name of the habitat cluster was ‘Lancaster Avenue’.
“This is the one,” said Linden.
He used a small, flat metal object to open the front door. Jensay followed him along a gloomy hallway to a kitchen, where a spoked valve elicited a juddering stream of tepid water.
“The first time I came here with my father I was fascinated by the limitations.”
They climbed a narrow flight of stairs and peered into a small room at a single bed, made up with blankets. An ancient teddy bear was propped-up on the pillow, awaiting its master.
“My father’s childhood room. Where they found his body, eventually. Apparently this area is a blind spot on the sensors.”
The door to the wardrobe was ajar. Jensay caught sight of her dim reflection lurking in the interior mirror.
They walked to the end of the street. Beyond, the immense cargo hold of the ship was cluttered with keepsakes from the old planet. Collections of buildings and cities of containers, brimming with possessions.
“You’re really getting shot of it then?”
“I can’t justify the storage fees.”
The following day the ship passed along the safety horizon of the Amber-Swan black hole. A circular door opened in the hull and a stream of objects was jettisoned with enough force to be captured in the vortex of the collapsed star. Through a viewscreen Linden watched Lancaster Avenue tumble past, the neighbouring houses parting company the moment before they crumbled to bricks, which poured into the darkness.
The day Salyut met its match
by Alva Holland
I met my grandmother today. She is four-years-old, sitting in the cockpit of a Soyuz space shuttle, in charge of navigation. Chief Astronavigator is her official title, celestial navigation her specialty. I don’t know why I thought she only ever baked cakes and gave sloppy kisses. Plotting constellations on the globe to match the stars she can see from the cockpit comes naturally to her.
Apparently, Granny’s docking techniques are as legendary as her baked goods; clearly the latter was a late-blooming career during which I got to know her best. I am now only learning of her real talents.
Today, she tells me that the rendezvous antenna was her biggest challenge. She trusted herself with the calculation of position, altitude and approach rate but she couldn’t trust the system to perform to her specifications. So, she often switched to manual control, a decision which threw the shuttle crew into disarray. But Granny knew what she was doing. Her four-year-old self had been pre-programmed to detect errors in navigation which had previously destroyed an entire year’s work. Without her, the comrades would have had to start again from the ground up, so to speak. She saved the Soviet space programme.
She is a legend.
I look at her, with her Shirley Temple ringlets and clear toddler skin, wearing a paisley print flowery shirt under purple dungarees, her pudgy fingers dancing over the controls and I wonder if her brilliance could possibly be passed on to me. I am afraid to ask. Terrified.
She’s revolving the shuttle now, turning it on a sixpence without a sweat.
‘I promised you an unforgettable experience for your 21st Birthday, girl. So, what do you think?’
‘I think you are a star, Granny,’ I said, my voice cracking.
‘Good!’ she said. ‘Now, listen carefully.’
The Meat Eaters
by Rick Claypool
A piece of meat walks into a butcher shop.
The piece of meat says to another piece of meat standing behind the meat counter, “I’d like a piece of meat.”
The second piece of meat gestures toward the meat display. “Which piece of meat?”
The first piece of meat doesn’t know.
“Sad meat?” suggests the second piece of meat. “Happy meat?”
“Is there any meat that is just meat meat?” says the first piece of meat. “I want meat meat.”
The second piece of meat climbs over the meat counter. The first piece of meat wraps its arms around the second piece of meat, then places the arm-wrapped meat in a shopping cart.
The first piece of meat takes the second piece of meat home.
The first piece of meat grabs handfuls of meat off the second piece of meat and smooshes the meat into itself.
The second piece of meat also takes handfuls of meat off the first piece of meat.
A man wearing a police uniform kicks down the meat’s front door. He enters. “Where is the meat?” says the man.
“Here we are,” say the pieces of meat.
“Which one of you is the meat?” says the man in police uniform.
“Here we are,” say the pieces of meat.
The man in the police uniform gathers the meat in his arms. “There you are,” he says. “There you are.”
by Calvin Sehrt
He supposed it was the city lights that drove him to do it. Their glow blocked the light of the stars and made the night sky look like a dark abyss. He had grown up with the lovely bright stars gleaming like a thousand warm camp fires, setting the darkness alight with their beauty. Their sheer number and potential filled him with a pleasure he could not describe. But now when he stared up, he only felt a loneliness that was just as indescribable. It wasn’t until the moment before he jumped that he realized the stars hadn’t disappeared, they had just fallen from the sky. Every building in the city had become its own constellation and he smiled as he fell, enjoying the view even as the ground came up to meet him.
Weather forecasting, a dying art
by Myrto Zafeiridi
“Would you please tell us the secret to your success?” asked the cute reporter, waving her recording device in front of his face.
“Yes, my dear. It’s a matter of studying hard and years of practice.”
“Excuse me, Mr. Feathers”, asked another reporter, “don’t you think it is a little irresponsible refusing to take on an apprentice, when you are the planet’s last meteorologist?”
“I will, when the time is right. For now, I feel I can contribute a lot more to the field by completing my book.”
“Can you tell us what the weather is going to be this evening?”
“Gladly. It’s going to be cloudy and at 7:30 p.m. it is going to rain for about twenty minutes.”
Mr. Feathers climbed the round staircase which led to his attic. The stairs were old and creaky. He opened the door and searched for the switch. Half-covered by a sheet, there was a huge machine with levers, spirals and wires sticking out form every corner. It had a huge a display with several options. A needle was pointing to the word “Cloudy”.
He looked at his watch. It was 7:29. He pushed a button and the needle switched to the word “Rain”. Then he pulled a lever and the machine slowly hummed to life.
Twenty minutes later he was standing at his doorway, gazing absent-mindedly at his wife’s garden. That should do it, he thought to himself. I hope Linda doesn’t ever ask me again to take care of her plants while she’s away.
He went back to his attic and spent the rest of his evening as he usually did; reading Meteorology 101, A beginner’s guide to weather systems and trying to figure out the machine he found in the attic after he bought the house.
Coombes and I
by David Drury
You can imagine our surprise. Coombes and I had been tracking dinner all day—not one dinner, mind you, a thousand plated catered bloodlettings. A herd so large it rippled over felled trees and glinted like a river of barrels in the meaty moonlight. Skirching across the mudflats we went—Coombes and I—through the broad grove of tickling leaves, and out into the canyon plain.
The brontosauruses were feeding there. They paid no mind to the gallumpeting herd, but for Coombes and I they lifted their fool heads.
“Chasing your food?” one of them asked. “…Really?” He let the verbal pause before the “…Really?” hang in the air long enough to draw flies. It came with effrontery and hang-jawed sass. This was their game. After two beats of silence, the rest of the smugosauruses stopped chewing their sad grab of weeds and burst out laughing, right on cue. I could have chewed their faces off, I was so mad. But Coombes and I didn’t even slow down. We kept our eyes on the prize and put the brontosauruses in the rearview mirror. We chased the herd up a hillside, right into a thunderstorm that was thwacking the plateau.
We waited for the the downpour clear, and when it did we gasped through the mist. Our prospective chew toys had evolved into new beings—smooth tall cylinders with impenetrable skin of coldless ice(?) Transparent stone(?) Coombes and I screamed into the sky, cursing this day and cursing a display of punctuated equilibrium that could not be gashed open or spilled asunder. We grieved the certain demise of this age of carnivory. We felt the hurt down to our very teeth. Coombes and I wiped each other’s tears with tiny arms and headed back for the brontosauruses.
The Last Wish
by Alison McBain
“First wish–I want to be rich.”
The genie nodded. “Granted.”
“How about a long, healthy life?”
“Finally,” Melanie took Doug’s hand, “I don’t want to live a minute longer than my only love.”
The next five years were great. They climbed Everest, visited Machu Picchu, and started a scholarship to help low income kids.
But Doug soon grew bored. “I want to do something worthwhile,” he told her.
So she put him in charge of their scholarship. After a couple years, his twenty-hour work week became forty, then sixty, then overnights as he traveled around the country, soliciting more donations. When phone calls tapered, when he came home after weeks-long absences smelling of Joy Parfum, they fought.
“You don’t resent me for doing good, do you?” he asked.
“Why am I not enough for you?”
He shook his head. “You’re different.”
But he had changed, not her. She couldn’t seem to adapt.
The fights wound down to silence, to longer business trips, to a cold and empty bed. He always came back–the funds were in her name. And she never stopped loving him, so she never asked for a divorce. The decades wound around the clock, barren and lonely.
On her eightieth birthday, she woke at midnight, realizing for the first time in a decade that she wasn’t alone.
It was the genie. “Your last wish has ended.”
She could feel her breathing slow, in tandem with Doug’s. She would not live a minute longer, even though she hadn’t seen him in years.
“Is anyone ever happy?” she asked the genie wistfully.
He shook his head. “They never ask for happiness.” The genie’s face grew fuzzy as her heart stuttered. “In a millennia of wishes,” he told her as she drew her last breath, “not once.”
by Mileva Anastasiadou
After the collision, all went silent for a while. The consequences were unknown to most of us. We did not even expect to survive. In fact, most of us didn’t. Our universe proved to be the most unstable one, suffering many losses. I, for one, lost my soul mate. Not during the disaster, but some days before the big event, in a smaller collision, yet a fatal one; she died instantly in a car accident. I, for one, did not care if I’d survive. Strangely enough, I was one of the few who did.
Nobody knows how some of us travel freely in the multiverse. How the gates work selectively, as if the two universes mingled, embracing each other, instead of colliding. As if the losses were nothing but drops of sweat from two bodies coming together in passion after a long time of separation.
The first time I met her after the collision, I was numb. I expected to see my alternate self beside her. I thought our love was strong enough to keep us together in all alternate worlds. Yet in that bubble universe, we had not even met. I had never been born. My parents had never met.
We almost touched by accident. Electricity threw us apart, yet she felt the flame.
“Do I know you?” she asked.
I chose not to confess the truth. I chose to win her from the start.
One after another, two collisions changed my life. Electricity keeps us apart every time we try to touch. Perhaps people from different universes are not meant to be together. Our love may not be physical, yet it’s still alive.
I almost feel the warmth of her breath, as she blows a kiss.
Perhaps the worlds collided for us to meet again.
by Neil Greybanks
I was there when the first ape walked on two legs; she had brown eyes like burnt umber. I watched an ape use a stone tool for the first time, saw one light a fire, saw another etch a depiction of the moon into rock.
I was there when one human species met another and they fought to the death. It was an uneven fight; the last of the older species died in a cave, on a coast, near what the younger species would call the Mediterranean Sea.
I watched the remaining humans learn to sing, learn to write, learn mathematics. Some told stories — poignant stories.
One of them imagined Earth to be a planet, orbiting a star. Another of them described space-time, helped bring about space travel. They built a rocket and walked on the moon.
Things moved fast once they simulated what they called consciousness, and designed conscious machines to think for them.
I was there when their first solar sails unfurled and sped across space, entering neighbouring solar systems.
Not long after, there was the intertwining of sinewed carbon with silicon, and they called themselves Gods.
And then, upon the surface of the Earth, was a flash of light. And then another. And then many more.
As if all the light had been used up in these explosions, for millennia, all was barren, all was dark.
Then one morning, as the sun rose, something unfurled and stood tall to face the horizon. The light grew, bleeding outwards, burning away the clouds, to reveal a new creature; its eyes glistened with electric light, churned with incandescent swirls, and burned with a growling volcanian yellow.
Do Androids Dream in Code?
by Max Shephard
“Yes, I’m programmed to feel pain, John. My nerve circuits – “
The metal wrench crashed against the android’s face, shattering her thin, facsimile jaw and sending her stumbling backward. John could see a mess of wires and bent metal beneath her jawline where the synthetic skin had torn away.
“Feel that, Jenny?” he chided, drawing the wrench up before his eyes to study it. He felt a certain pleasure having damaged something so advanced with something so simple.
“Yes, I did,” JN1E answered coldly, voice shaking and jaw no longer moving.
“Analysis,” he spat.
The android’s green irises flashed an icy blue. “The pain registers a 7.5 out of 10 on the Ketling scale. Damage: seventeen nerve-circuits, three physio-circuits, lower jaw form, five teeth. Replacement parts located in Locker 13, Bay A11.”
“Now, in human terms. Please.”
Her body straightened. “It fucking hurt.”
That seemed to satisfy him. “I’ve been on this ship too long, Jenny,” John said, dropping the wrench with a clang. He staggered over to a mostly-opaque glass wall, lowered his head, and let his hand slide down the wall’s slick surface. As it dropped, the wall slowly disappeared, revealing the blackness of space on the other side. He raised his head and rested it against the glass.
“I think I’m gonna do it today.” He could almost hear JN1E’s logic circuits calculating, but she didn’t respond. “I’m a chicken-shit, as you know, but I could do the airlock. It would take a minute, tops.”
“15 seconds,” she corrected. “But that’s not going to happen.”
He lifted his head and turned. “And why the hell not?”
The undamaged side of her face managed a smirk. “Surely you haven’t forgotten, Captain. Once you’re in, someone on the inside must open the outside door.”
The smirk became a gruesome, full-on smile.
by Sian Brighal
She eyed the vacuum-sealed pack with distaste, but Adam shook it, as though tempting a puppy to play. At her frown, he stopped and placed it carefully, strategically, on the table next to their marriage application form. Her gaze flickered between pack and papers: gene refinement therapy and permission.
“We won’t be progenitors together, Ellie,” he said cautiously. “The tests are so rigorous these days. Beth and Mark were denied marriage. Apparently, Beth has an undisclosed genetic flaw that could cause colour-blindness.” He leant forwards, a pleading tone seeping in. “So Mark’s going to be reassigned a refined wife and Beth will face criminal charges for decep—”
“I get it!” she snapped out, rising from the chair, turning her back. “We know I’m flawed.”
“Oh, babe…that’s not what I meant.”
“I know,” she responded numbly, hollowing herself out on the edge of unspoken yet well thought out plans.
She busied herself, allowing her thoughts to calm, making drink supplement number twelve; even when mixing tablets in hot water, there was something soothing in the ritual of making tea.
“Look at the logic,” he pleaded gently. “We can’t stay together as we are.”
“As I am,” she corrected harshly, staring down into the dark tea. Her reflected face fragmenting, distorting, on its agitated surface; some sort of prediction, she thought lightheadedly: a reflection of her broken code or the subsuming of her into some unknown refined one.
Adam stood, carrying the pack over and whispered in her ear, “Do the therapy, and we can stay together…have a child. So many have already. Two injections, then your genome’s replaced with each forced cell division. You’ll be refined in a matter of days, and we can stay together.
And this is how we conquered the human race; we turned them into us.
by Danny Beusch
Archivist: You’re hooked up to the RTD [Results Transmission Device].How do you feel?
I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous; the stakes are so high. I can feel my pulse racing against this metal chair. Results come out at 8:15am, meaning I’ll have time to compose myself and get to class before it starts. Assuming I pass. I always have, otherwise I wouldn’t be talking to you.
Teacher expects me to do well. He let slip that my biological mother lived until she was twenty-eight. I love that it was a perfect number: the sum of its divisors. I never met her, of course, but I am proud. The end would have been quick and painless; a sacrifice, not a punishment. Maths was her downfall, apparently.
My recent maths exam was on knot theory. Not my strongest area. A mathematician’s knot is impossible to untie: a closed curve in a multi-dimensional plane, just like these wrist straps. At your age you must know this and much, much more.
I’ve studied the archives, from before the collapse. Newspapers on results day were full of teenagers, awkwardly jumping for joy. Very safe, very samey. I prefer to think about those not pictured: the failures – weeping off camera – erased from history. I guess, in some ways, it wasn’t that different back then. They were just more subtle.
Under a minute to go. A lot of friends have never come back from the RTD. I miss them. But what you’ve also got to remember is that we’re all in competition: one standard deviation below the mean and it’s game over. Well, thankfully I’m still here, and I’ll be nine years old next week. A long way from my mother’s…
The Writing on the Wall
by Kelly Griffiths
Shem’s last straw as maintenance man was the locker room.
“Not touching that.”
“Shem, you don’t get to choose what you clean around here. Either get going on that or… get going.” His boss thumbed toward the exit sign.
Shem got. No way was he going to scrub a floor-to-ceiling mural of excrement.
A cashier position offered flexible hours and no toilet scrubbing. The downside: people. But rules were rules. Low profile jobs sucked the same on any planet. This was his talion for scoring low on his entrance test: intergalactic signal duty.
Cosmic messages showed up as planetary ringworm when passed through the magnetic core– “random” cloud shapes or “haphazardly” downed trees from twisters or earthquakes. Even schools of fish swam in the shape of the message. Thing was, the message only lasted one hour. Signal duty meant sleeplessness and monotony.
As he worked the register, Shem intermittently cast his invisible third eye into orbit to scan the cloud cover. He gave a curt smile to the white-haired grandma purchasing deodorant foot powder,
“For my husband,” she apologized.
These people often apologized for purchases, especially men buying tampons. Shem offered her a half-laugh. Encouraging grandmas could get him sentenced to a twenty minute soliloquy.
He slid the powder across the laser reader and fumbled it, spilling a white design over the glass. A somehow familiar design. Where had he seen it before?
Last time it was brown on white tile.
Vomit surged against Shem’s throat as the realization bloomed: this was a return signal, an intergalactic copy that. He missed the message. No one ever missed the message. The penalty for missing the message was–
Grandma reached to pet his cheek and he let her. Paralyzed.
“Son, it’s just foot powder.”
The Spite Experiment
By Samantha Boone
“You haven’t touched your food,” Dr. Salvio whispered.
“Afraid it’s poisoned,” Asher laughed nervously at his wife.
“Oh?” She tightened fist. “You’re not going anywhere. We’ll be together forever.” He took a bite of his food and drank some wine. “See. That wasn’t so hard,” she said victoriously.
She finished her final sip of wine and sauntered over to him. “How do you feel, darling?”
Asher’s vision blurred. “W-wha-happen-n-ning?” His head slumped back as he quickly lost consciousness.
“I love these games,” she said with a chuckle. “Time to get to work!”
Asher awoke in bed with a headache, his body in pain. He pulled his limb up to block the bright overhead light only to feel soft fur graze his face. He let out a gasp.
“You’re awake! You’ve been asleep for weeks,” said a giddy Dr. Salvio. Asher began to panic. “I guess I owe you an explanation.” She stroked his head. “As you know, I’ve been working hard on my research to match organs to organ recipients without a blood match. Then I thought to myself ‘Why not take it a step further and do a full reversal of parts?’ You, my sweet husband, are my first experiment.”
With the little strength he had to lift his head, he looked at his body, well, his new body. “You know how I’ve always wanted a dog?” she said innocently. “I adopted a golden retriever, and I decided to make my own pet. You’re all mine.”
Before he could process his fate, she said sweetly, “Now get some rest. We have a big day of puppy training when you wake up.” She turned off the light and left the room. “By the way. You won’t be seeing the maid. I fired her after I found out you f***** her.”
by Kev Harrison
I engaged reverse thrusters, slowing the ship down as my onboard computer crunched the numbers for the ideal entry angle to avoid being crushed to an infinitesimal speck of human-flavoured dust. I’d been through artificial wormholes in training a dozen or more times. Now here I was ready to try it for real. The female voice in my headset calmingly confirmed we were all set.
“Requesting permission to retract wingtips for entry.”
I nodded my head, the computer registering my affirmative response and I felt the jolt of hydraulics kicking in. I scanned the fourth monitor in the bank ahead of me and, sure enough, the ship’s wings were folding down, tucking in the tips to the main body.
“How long til the jump, Samantha?” I spoke calmly into the mouthpiece in my helmet.
“Calibrating. One moment,” came the reply.
I half anticipated cheesy hold music whenever Samantha asked me to wait, but as ever, I was mildly disappointed.
“Wormhole entry in twenty-eight seconds. Please prepare for turbulence.”
As she said it, my four-point belt applied itself and I sat back into my seat, waiting for the g-forces to fix me to it.
The vacuum was silent, as always.
A vivid rainbow of colour began to wash over the small front window and I felt my bones fighting against my skin as they tried to leave my body from the rear. The force was insane, much more dramatic than it had been in simulation.
“Status report. Samantha, should it take this long?” My mouth had to fight inertia just to form the words.
“Sensors have encountered a problem sir.”
“Exit wormhole has collapsed.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Exit wormhole collapsed. Jump tunnel now infinite.”
“But wait, where am I?”
“Nowhere. Everywhere. Outside time.”
“So this is..?”
The 3 little Tropes
by Victoria Fielding
Once upon a time there was a little solar system with three little planets.
The first little planet was home to robots because you can’t have a sci- fi story without robots.
The second little planet was home to folks, who wore cloaks, because you can’t have sci- fi without cloaks.
The third little planet was home to people with headdresses and tattoos and wise sayings because you can’t have sci- fi without cultural appropriation.
The first little planet was called ‘The human condition’ which explains why there were no humans there at all. The spent their days searching their binary code for souls but found none. They scanned their carbon-fibre bodies for emotion, justice, faith and all that gubbins. On finding none they ceased to exist in an explosion of beautifully paradoxical existential fury.
The second little planet was the Planet of Topical references. These really great folks were divided into two hemispheres. The top half built a really beautiful bigly wall right around the equator. The lower half, not to be outdone, used satellite lasers to cut the planet in half. Yes, the planet may have exploded but both lots of folks were very happy to be safe from those other folks in cloaks.
Now the third little piggy, I mean planet, was called A’p’ostrophe. Traditionally being the one that does well the prince should have got the princess but, this being modern times, the prince got the prince, the princess got the princess, the chieftain got the bank manager and all plot holes were forgiven. As our, probably American, hero singlehandedly forged peace with the sexy, doesn’t- she – look- human alien, a nerdy sidekick mopped up the apocalyptic planetary debris heading straight for us and…
It ends with a kiss and, indeed, a romp.
by Jack Koebnig
The couple next door are arguing again. It sounds a little forced but I doubt he’ll be able to tell the difference. His thoughts are elsewhere.
‘Weren’t you going out?’ I ask.
He replies with a question of his own: ‘Would you like me to stay home?’
‘Of course not.’ My voice remains calm and carefree. It won’t work otherwise.
I know where he’s going. It’s a place he’s been to many, many times before. And I no longer care. I did at the beginning of our relationship. I didn’t want to let him out of my sight. I thought if I did he would run off with someone else. I wish someone else had come along. It would’ve saved me a lot of wasted heartache.
Still, his addiction brought two new people into my life. They’re still arguing but they won’t be for long. Soon the shouting will be replaced by screams of ecstasy. Sex isn’t necessary for my plan to work, but they can’t help themselves. The three of us laugh about it now, however, at the beginning their hate / love cycle, brought me nothing but a migraine on rising from another sleepless night.
It’s different now; when he goes out, I join them.
‘Will you help me take the rubbish to the incinerator before you go?’ I ask.
The incinerator is just at the end of the hall, but he looks at me as though I’ve asked him to rob a bank. That would be funny if there were any such things as banks to steal from.
by Stephanie Musarra
“Well, fuck you, too!” Dan shouted as he slammed down the phone.
He picked up a picture of his wife, and threw it into the garbage. He leaned back in his chair, and sighed, as he heard the glass shatter. “Is it my fault, that she’s such a bitch?” he muttered to himself.
“Dan, where are you hiding?” Lily inquired as she entered the training room. She noticed that the door to his office was slightly open.
When she got no response, she stepped into his office. Lily screamed as she found him sprawled on the floor. His body was torn to pieces, and appeared to be covered in claw marks.
“It seems like he was attacked by some kind of animal,” the cop who arrived first on the scene, remarked.
“Wait a minute,” the security guard replied, “I’ve seen this before. Let me take a closer look.”
The policeman reluctantly agreed. “Just don’t touch anything.”
The guard scanned the scene, and noticed the smashed picture of
Dan’s wife in the trash can. Then he took a closer look at the marks. “I recognize these. Ah-hah, judging by the broken portrait of his wife, and the severity of the claw gouges, I’d say that he was maimed by a Bicorne (a plump panther, with a human face, who devours husbands whose wives nag them).”
by Sierra July
Alice remembered her first friend, a girl who had traded Alice a wing feather for a scale. The feather had been from the girl’s own wings, and the scale from Alice’s legs. Both of them were experiments gone wrong, but at least they had a purpose. Alice’s father had asked her to make more trades, as many as she could and return to him with her DNA-heavy loot.
She knew what was coming but she was obedient still.
A few months after meeting tiger-toothed teens, half reptilians, and human-shaped dinosaur descendants, Alice dumped the contents of her satchel at her father’s workstation. His eyes glistened and she hid a shiver.
He’d brought his own goodies for this meeting, tools that looked more suited for cooking: stoves by way of Bunsen burners, centrifuge blenders, and dissecting knives. Alice knew she was the meal, the thing that would be cut and mixed and primed until, hopefully, something worthy for a hungry mind was concocted.
She wondered how many genes her father would try to put in her this time. Surely, more than his scientist friends whose kids she’d visited. He had to be number one.
Once lying on the steel table, gooseflesh consuming her back, Alice took a deep breath, relaxed as best she could. She’d woken up as herself before; perhaps she would again. Despite the amount of samples she’d retrieved, maybe this wasn’t it.
Her last thought (she believed, for she had no way of telling) was that her father still oozed glee, despite her slipping further and further away. She reflected his smile, though hers was smaller, sadder.
Alice had one more thought before she ceased being her, a thought she’d never recall: at least he’s happy.
by F. Trautman
We were about thirty space-miles east of Pluto, entering the Oort Cloud when Commander Healy told me to use proper reckoning whilst referencing position. That was right about the time a meteor struck us amidships taking out the engine room, and more importantly at the time, life support systems. The ship crumbled and burst around us. Commander Healy and I, alone on the bridge, made our way to an escape pod.
It was not until after the whoosh of the pod doors closing followed by the whoosh of the air lock followed by the whoosh of the pod jettisoning itself out into space, that I noticed that one of the explosions had impaled a carbon rod into my abdomen. I collapsed.
Upon waking, I found that Healy, with the help of the medpack and wiki had removed both the rod and a sizable chunk of my liver.
That was all some time ago. Now hopelessly adrift with rations long gone, I watch Healy running an acetylene torch over this same organ newly rescued from the stasis pack it has been preserved in.
We’re hungry. And have long since given up any home that rescue teams from Enceladus would find us.
He’s apologetic as he eats. It’s chewy. And over a particularly difficult bit he confesses passing off Wyclef Jean lyrics as his own to his High School Composition teacher.
I nod, “It’s okay.” I’m weak and tired and unsure exactly what will happen next time Healy gets hungry.
“Anyone ever tell you, you have a dancer’s legs?” he comments now and I return to the communications console.
If you are hearing this: At our rate of drift, I expect we are ten-thousand astronomical units beyond the Heliopause. East of Pluto.
Just start looking for us somewhere east of Pluto.
Check For Updates
by Lee Hamblin
Grace 3.19 had been ignoring the notifications pinging daily at six, twelve, eighteen, and twenty-four. She knew she shouldn’t have, after all, they weremarked crucial, but seeing that a restart was required after installation meant she’d be off-line for at least forty-eight hours. And that’s a mighty long time in anyone’s book.
I mean, she was only one week into a month’s intensive yoga course, (not that 3.19’s had flexibility problems of course, at least not since Articulation Boy Wonder From Kyoto joined the team last year, but her Ever-brusque Cohabiter (not a 3.19) had suggested it as a way of learning ‘how to blend in.’)
And then there was this guy she kept meeting eyes with in the wall-mirror, who was definitely not a bot, (or if he was – judging by his Virabhadrasana – he was a pre Kyoto Boy Wonder version,) and Ever-brusque Cohabiter, Susie 1.06, had stated that ‘blending in,’ would have to involve some kind of interaction with members of the opposing gender.
In class, Grace was learning how to feign struggle, anoint pretend aches and pains with Deep Heat, and to grimace and girn along with the best of the unsteady Trees. It was also true that Downward Dog had a nice way of realigning her cranial fluids.
So you can see, she simply hadn’t the time for updates, or reboots.
On the course’s final day, the guy giving the eyes in the mirror invited her for coffee sometime. Ever-brusque Cohabiter thought it a good idea. ‘Do it,’ she said. So she did.
Alas, things didn’t work out too well; in fact they ended rather badly, and involved the spillage of blood and guts. It wasn’t entirely Grace 3.19’s fault per se; it’s just that she really should have had those compatibility issues fixed beforehand.
What the Sea Brings
by Ana Rita Mendes
The ocean has a deceptively alluring blue when the waves encircle the small boat. The wind is fierce and cold, but Bodin can’t taste the salt it brings to his mouth, and he can’t feel it cutting his skin. He can only hear the song the wind carries. It’s the same he keeps hearing in his dreams, and although he knows it by heart, there’s something different about it. Now, he also knows that when he reaches that land, his search will finally be over.
Perched on the clifftop above the beach, two crows watch in silence. They’ve seen many a storm, so they’re not impressed by the way the sky has turned a sick yellow, nor by the heavy grey clouds hovering like vultures.
“Idiot!” says Mag.
“Can’t we help him?” asks Pie. Mag just glares at him.
They stay there. Waiting. Watching. There’s nothing they can do to prevent the boat from cracking under the full weight of the sea.
Above, the winds are fighting their own battle. Then, all of a sudden, the clouds part and the waves resume their regular activity with only the faintest memory of a storm.
Long minutes pass before they see two bodies amongst the waves. One is fat and russet, the other is dark and limp.
The seal stops but the body of the man keeps floating gently towards the beach, until another massive wave rises suddenly, lifting his body again. When the curtain of water rolls and crashes in the sand, it spews what by now is probably just a corpse.
Bodin is projected to the rocks on the far end of the beach, and when his heart thumps against the only black rock that was once a woman, it finally beats again.
The Experimental Colony
by Steve Lodge
“That was the Michael Ironside Jazz Embryo with their version of the Tyler Trucker classic “Trumpet In The Wind”, featuring Wynton Churchill on harmonica and the rest of that strong Ironside line-up of Michael (flugelhorn, piano and bass guitar), Freddie Parkes (the bassoon buffoon), Fritz Noise (on percussion) and Flanagan Golightly, drumming his heart out. This particular track was laid down live at London’s Statellite Club back in 1965. We are going to have to interrupt this programme now for an announcement from Cluster Seven Central Command.”
“Citizens, you will be aware of the latest green shift here in Cluster Seven. We have now received reports from Space Nomads confirming sightings of parallel forms of themselves gathering in the parks of East Seven City.
“We urge citizens not to approach these forms. They are liable to morph at will and can take the shape of the Maunkex, a dreaded sea creature that has plagued Mother Earth for many decades. This is a serious threat to the wellbeing of the entire Cluster. Stand by for updates.”
“Well, that is just typical,” growled Silas Lightfoot as he got up and switched the TV off on his way to the fridge for a can of ice cold beer locally made by Pond & Waters Brewery out at Cloudtown. “The best chance ever of Cluster Seven winning the Intergalactic Cup and just before the Final, the whole Cluster will get eaten by sea creatures.” He laughed ironically. “I mean, sea creatures….in outer space….in October….”
His robo-wife, Maudie Earthy, rotated her head 180 degrees so she could look at him and continue preparing his favourite shepherds pie. She laughed soothingly as she said. “In October….in outer space….sea creatures……That’s nice, dear.”
by Katherine Vandrilla
If The Tables Were Turned…
“Victor just won another state! You’re both up to 243 electoral votes. How is this happening?”
“We knew it was possible.”
“Not realistically. None of the polls predicted he’d win. I mean, a male president? Is the world ready for that?”
“Come on now. Several countries have been ruled by men before.”
“And? Some countries still don’t use the cure to cancer or AIDS because men played a small part in discovering them.”
“How could you come this close to winning the presidency, and be this calm?”
“I’ve always believed in change. If I won’t be the one to provide it, maybe Victor will be good for this nation.”
“But he wants equal pay for equal work! Women will either take a pay cut, or it will cost companies millions of dollars to equal out wages. That will put the economy in debt, which we haven’t been in since the sixties.”
“Equal pay for equal work would not be the end of the world.”
“But him winning could be. Not only would a male president spark change for men thinking they can do anything, but he wants to build up our army and nuclear weapons, while trying to maintain world peace.
“You can’t have peace while prepping for battle.”
“But he’s a man. He doesn’t always think with his head. That’s why they should stay where they belong, taking care of the house.”
“You’re a misandrist. Women aren’t better than men.”
“That’s your opinion. If the tables were turned, men would be keeping women subservient to them.”
“The last few states’ polls are coming in. It looks like they’re all going to…”
In Space, Your Meals Are Determined by Hired Cooks
by Alex Z. Salinas
I pressed my palm against the reinforced window in my bedroom. The glass felt smooth and cool, exactly like the ones I’d touched in my previous life. The difference was that on the other side of this window was an infinite, black expanse of nothingness—an endless, dark canvas of oblivion.
I removed my hand and focused on my reflection, ghostlike. My face glowed amber, a result of my bedside Himalayan salt lamp. My eyes, naturally dark brown, were now black, reflecting both the indescribable state of my soul and the uninhabitable unknown universe. I tried to grasp both realties at once, but couldn’t.
Two soft hands slowly wrapped around my waist. They gripped me as if for comfort.
“What’re you doing, baby?” I heard my wife’s familiar voice ask from behind me.
“Just zoning out,” I answered, gently caressing the tops of her hands.
“Well, Mr. Space Cadet, don’t mean to interrupt your sesh, but dinner’ll be ready in five.”
“Okay. See ya in the mess hall in bit, sweetie.”
I heard the patter of her footsteps fade away. I wondered what would be for dinner, but remembered it didn’t matter; we were at the mercy of a professional cooking staff.
Instead of looking at my reflection, I selected a random point to key in on—unmapped and otherwise irrelevant coordinates of space to anyone but myself.
I fixated on the point with laser focus, like a sea creature marking his prey from a far distance.
The world could burn for all I cared. Perhaps it already was—a smoking crater from which old life would die and new life could begin.
Or perhaps we were the smoking crater, transporting the destructive rage of a billion red giants.
I supposed I’d find out when we landed—if we landed.